Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Motives and arguments

I've been acutely aware, since I was 18, of the wishful thinking charge against Christianity, when I read Bertrand Russell, and that is one of the main reasons I majored in philosophy as an undergraduate. If there were reasons to reject Christianity, I wanted to know what those were, and I wanted to know that sooner rather than later. These considerations have made Christianity more difficult to believe, not easier to believe.
All discussion of the motives of other people is sheer speculation. If you become convinced, say, that atheism is true, it may help you explain why there are so many believers, but you have things backwards if you think you can start with speculation about peoples motives and conclude anything about what you have good reason to believe. Everyone can speculate about the motives of their opponents. It's as easy as pie, but it ends in a stalemate.
If you say, "I'd love to believe in a heaven, but I just can't because the evidence just isn't there." I'm not going to call you a liar. But if I tell you I thought about these issues, and I would believe if I didn't think there were good reasons for believing (and I've just given a couple of reasons off the top of my head), then no matter how poorly you think of them as reasons, you don't have a good reason to disbelieve my introspective report.

Does the material add up to the mental?

Further, when people define matter, they do it by defining the mental out of it. If we start attributing mental properties to matter at the basic level of analysis, we don't call that materialism, we call it panpsychism. Yet, we couldn't do science without minds, so somehow these material states some how add up, put together, to a mental state. OK, but now, it looks to me as if, if you add up material states until doomsday, you never close the question of whether the mental state is there. The computer beats me in chess, but does it have the inner states of mind that go along with winning a chess game. Most of us would say no. So something can function as mental, it seems to me, without actually being mental.

  • Why is one chunk of matter me, and all the others not me?

     I want to know, if materialism is true, why one chunk of matter is "me" and all the rest of the chunks of matter are not me. Even if you buy the whole story about something evolving that functions as if it were a me, I can still imagine a possible world physically identical to this one in which I am somebody else. So the explanation for why one chunk of matter is me, and another chunk of matter is, say, Barack Obama, can't be something about the physical world, since in a physically identical world, I'm Obama, and someone else is Reppert.

  • Monday, April 29, 2013

    C. S. Lewis on wishes and beliefs

    From a letter to Sheldon Vanauken. 

    Dear Mr. Vanauken,

    My own position at the threshold of Xianity was exactly the opposite of yours. You wish it were true; I strongly hoped it was not. At least, that was my conscious wish: you may suspect that I had unconscious wishes of quite a different sort and that it was these which finally shoved me in. True: but then I may equally suspect that under your conscious wish that it were true, there lurks a strong unconscious wish that it were not. What this works out to is that all the modern thinking, however useful it may be for explaining the origin of an error which you already know to be an error, is perfectly useless in deciding which of two beliefs is the error and which is the truth. For (a.) One never knows all one's wishes, and (b.) In very big questions, such as this, even one's conscious wishes are nearly always engaged on both sides. What I think one can say with certainty is this: the notion that everyone would like Xianity to be true, and that therefore all atheists are brave men who have accepted the defeat of all their deepest desires, is simply impudent nonsense. Do you think people like Stalin, Hitler, Haldane, Stapledon (a corking good writer, by the way) wd. be pleased on waking up one morning to find that they were not their own masters, that they had a Master and a Judge, that there was nothing even in the deepest recesses of their thoughts about which they cd. say to Him `Keep out! Private. This is my business'? Do you? Rats! Their first reaction wd. be (as mine was) rage and terror. And I v. much doubt whether even you wd. find it simplypleasant. Isn't the truth this: that it wd. gratify some of our desires (ones we feel in fact pretty seldom) and outrage a good many others? So let's wash out all the wish business. It never helped anyone to solve any problem yet.

    The hiddenness of God

    This discussion, by Loftus, explains a typical atheist response on what good evidence for theism would look like to them. What it does is raise the whole issue of the hiddenness of God. Even if we think there are good reasons to believe there is a God, there are things God could have done to make it more evidence, so that we could more confidently assert that nonbelievers are all irrational. Michael Rea has a nice paper in response to this problem.

    Here's a quote from it:

    That’s one way of pitching the idea that divine hiddenness might help to preserve our freedom. But here’s another: Suppose Bill Gates were to go back on the dating scene. Wouldn’t it be natural for him to want to be with someone who would love him for himself rather than for his resources? Yet wouldn’t it also be natural for him to worry that even the most virtuous of prospective dating partners would find it difficult to avoid having her judgment clouded by the prospect of living in unimaginable wealth? The worry wouldn’t be that there would be anything coercive about his impressive circumstances; rather, it’s that a certain kind of
    genuineness in a person’s response to him is made vastly more difficult by those circumstances. But, of
    course, Bill Gates’s impressiveness pales in comparison with God’s; and, unlike Gates, God’s resources
    and intrinsic nature are so incredibly impressive as to be not only overwhelmingly and unimaginably
    beautiful but also overwhelmingly and unimaginably terrifying. Viewed in this light, it is easy to suppose that God must hide from us if he wants to allow us to develop the right sort of nonself-interested love for him.

    This isn't about Loftus and his personality, but the issue at hand, please.

    Thursday, April 25, 2013

    The Naturalism thread redone

    I am trying to get rid of an unsightly mess this post caused, so I am redoing it, with the comments included

    But if naturalism is true, then this type of causation, according to Lewis, is impossible. Events in nature are determined by theprevious position of material particles, the laws of nature, and (perhaps) a chance factor. In that situation, according to Lewis, the object that is known determines the positive character of the act of knowing. But in rational inference what we know is a logical connection, and a logical connection is not in any particular spatio-temporal location.

    C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea, p. 64. 

    Zach said: 

    But in rational inference what we know is a logical connection, and a logical connection is not in any particular spatio-temporal location.

    Unless a logical connection is partly constituted by the operations of the mind of a rational agent, not of something outside of space and time (after all, you cannot assume rational thought is outside of spacetime without begging the question, and you cannot assume that logical connections are nonnaturalistic without begging the question--if this is meant to be an argument against naturalism anyway).

    If drawing a logical connection is a pattern of thought, and the latter is some material process, then to say a logical connection is not in any particular spatio-temporal location is like saying a particular utterance has no particular spatio-temporal location.

    Now, I am no naturalist wrt mind, mind you, but this argument begs too many questions against the naturalist to be of use against him. It might be a nice binky for those who are already antinaturalists about all these different things.
    Hal said...
    Not to mention that the form of Naturalism that Lewis was apparently attacking is only one kind. It is sort of analogous to an atheist attacking an old-fashioned fundamentalist and thinking he had demolished Christianity.

    Dan said:

    The AfR is funny to me because it assumes that the universe is superlatively deterministic if naturalism is true: "the object that is known determines ... the act of knowing." I can only guess that the sort of determination spoken of here is that of non-rational causation, because the Naturalist is bound to assume, so his opponent thinks, that that's the only sort of causation that exists. As Hal implies, other species of Naturalism exist. Not every naturalist is a materioeliminatipositiviatheist.


    Good point.

    Anscombe mentioned Lewis was working with that deterministic conception of causation in his argument.
    I don't have the exact quote at hand but it is located in the into to her collection of essays on metaphisics.
    She was sympathetic to Lewis' efforts to improve his argument, by the way.

    I think this argument can be helpful for those naturalists who think reductionism is flawed.

    Anscombe is considered to be one of the top British philosophers of the last century and was also a very devout Catholics. I think anyone interested in these issues would do well to read her writings on action and intention.

    BeingItself said...
    And supernaturalism solves this alleged mystery how?

    Victor Reppert said...
    Actually brute chance is not going to help defend against the AFR. The problem is that if we know an object, we know the object. At the basic level of analysis, all causation is physical, that is blind, causation according to a naturalist, unless that naturalism can include something like panpsychism.

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013


    In my opinion, next year's Oscars are wrapped up already. This movie about Jackie Robinson's entry into baseball is the best movie I've seen in years.

    Anyone tempted to believe that religious belief does nothing but harm should ask if they still believe this after seeing the movie. The moral conviction behind Branch Rickey's ending the segregation of baseball comes from his Methodism.

    Sunday, April 21, 2013

    Sir Isaac Newton was only masquerading as a scientist

    Richard Dawkins wrote:
    I am starting to think that the onus is on those who espouse 'serious theologians' to nominate at least ONE who is serious enough to be worth bothering to engage. It cannot be John Haught (see here). Nor can it be William Craig, whose idea of a moral theological argument is that infanticide is just fine because you are doing the children a favour by sending them straight to heaven. Nor can it be John Lennox, who masquerades as a scientist while believing Jesus turned water into wine. And now we see that it cannot even be the Archbishop of York. Where are we to turn for a theologian worth arguing with? Who, indeed, are these 'serious theologians' about which we hear so much. And what is this 'serious theology', ignorance of which is held to be so reprehensible?

    If believing that Jesus turned water into wine is sufficient to be not taken seriously by Dawkins, then he is requiring that people water Christianity down in order to be taken seriously. 

    But C. S. Lewis wrote: 

    Do not attempt to water Christianity down. There must be no pretence that you can have it with the Supernatural left out. So far as I can see Christianity is precisely the one religion from which the miraculous cannot be separated. You must frankly argue for supernaturalism from the very outset. . . .
    The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left.

    C.S. Lewis, "Christian Apologetics" (1945) included in God in the Dock (Eerdmans, 1970) 99..

    The obvious question, though, is why someone can't be a scientist who believes that Jesus turned water into wine. Science attempts, or so we are told to map the activities of nature, (though I wouldn't dismiss at least the possibility that science might not discover laws of supernature as well, if it pushed on far enough), while a miracle involves the activity of someone who is outside of nature. So, we all know water doesn't turn into wine naturally. An omnipotent being surely would have the power to turn water into wine, and that is the agency through which Jesus presumably did this. I take it that Sir Isaac Newton believed that Jesus turned water into wine. Is Dawkins going to claim that Newton was only masquerading as a scientist since he holds that this is sufficient grounds to say that Lennox is only masquerading as a scientist? 

    Friday, April 19, 2013

    On being judgmental

    Are Christians judgmental? To answer that question we have to ask what it is to be judgmental. If someone were to say "homosexual activity is a sin, because the Bible condemns it," is that person therefore being judgmental? Now, I am not here raising the question of whether a Christian must say this sort of thing, and certainly there is a considerable theological debate on the matter. But is it wrong to say something like this because it's judgmental? Does our disapproval of conduct on moral grounds constitute being judgmental? Is it judgmental to say that people who raise their child to believe a religion are abusing them also judgmental?

    This blog post discusses that question.

    Relativism, God, and Bill Clinton

    If there is a God, and God has informed us that something is wrong, then we can be relativists only if we think that God's opinion is no better than anyone else's. Can you imagine Bill Clinton saying to God "You say adultery is wrong, but that's just your opinion. I think it's OK. Who's to say which of us is right, and which of us is wrong?"

    Bulverism and the AFR

    A redated post. (It's time to redate it one more time).

    Pat Parks, who is working on a master's thesis on the AFR at Cal State Long Beach, sent a question about the relation between the AFR and Lewis's critique of Bulverism. If Bulverizing is a bad thing, then doesn't that imply that what causes our beliefs is irrelevant to the justification of those beliefs, and if that is so then doesn't Anscombe's critique of Lewis go through. Steve Lovell, who has written a dissertation on Lewis and philosophy, responded to this query by mentioning that he had covered the same issue in the conclusion of his dissertation. Steve's comments are in bold, followed by mine.

    Bulverism and the Reasons/Causes Distinction
    There was a method of ‘refutation’ that Lewis encountered so frequently that he felt he ought to give it a name. Bulverism, named after its fictional inventor Ezekiel Bulver, consists in dismissing a person’s claims as psychologically tainted at source, as in “Oh, you say that because you’re a man” (1941a: 181). The Bulverist’s thought is that if a person’s convictions can be fully explained as a result of non-rational factors then we need not bother about those convictions. Lewis deplored this sort of attack on our beliefs, seeing it as an illegitimate tactic which shortcuts the reasoning process. I argued in Chapter 5 that such ‘genetic arguments’ are often, but not always, fallacious. In general, we should find out whether or not a person is wrong before we start explaining how they came to be wrong. And of course the Bulverist’s game is very easy to play. If illicit motives may operate on one side of a debate, they may equally operate on the other. We do not (at least not always) clarify an issue by delving into psychology or personal history but rather by reasoning about the subject in hand.
    If you try to find out which [thoughts] are tainted by speculating about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of yourself. You must find out on purely logical grounds which of them do, in fact, break down as arguments. Afterwards, if you like, [you may] go on and discover the psychological causes of the error.
     In other words, you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. … [Y]ou can only find out the rights and wrongs by reasoning – never by being rude about your opponent’s psychology. (1941a: 180-1)

    In attacking Bulverism, Lewis distinguished between reasons and causes:
    Causes are mindless events which can produce other results than beliefs. Reasons arise from axioms and inferences and affect only beliefs. Bulversism tries to show that the other man has causes and not reasons and that we have reasons and not causes. A belief which can be accounted for entirely in terms of causes is worthless. (1941a: 182)
    It is unclear how this last quote fits with the general critique of Bulverism. On the one hand we have Lewis saying that we can only find out the rights and wrong by reasoning and not by explaining (away) our opponents beliefs as the product of non-rational causes, and on the other Lewis appears to claim that the presence of such causes is incompatible with the presence of reasons. Is the problem with Bulverism that it fails to distinguish between reasons and causes and so presumes that one must exclude the other? Or is it that Bulverism is too quick to attribute beliefs to non-rational causes in the first place?
     The question is interesting in its own right, but it is also interesting for the light it may (or may not) cast upon Lewis’ argument against naturalism. For if the presence of a non-rational cause for a belief does not exclude the presence of reasons, it is hard to see how the naturalist’s commitment to the presence of such causes can discredit the naturalist’s beliefs. On the other hand, if these two kinds of explanation are really incompatible, we cannot claim that the Freudian critique of religious belief commits the genetic fallacy but merely that it assumes too easily that religious belief is brought about by non-rational factors. If religious belief may have non-rational determinants (may be ‘desire based’) and yet still be warranted, then surely the naturalist’s general commitment to the presence of such determinants cannot undermine his claims to knowledge. In terms of the reasoning presented in Chapter 5, we may wonder whether Lewis’ argument against naturalism cannot be rejected on the same grounds as we rejected the Freudian critique of religious belief, that it commits the genetic fallacy. If the one argument commits this fallacy, then so too does the other. Or so it would appear.
     But to commit the genetic fallacy is to take the origin of a belief to be relevant to its evaluation and then illegitimately fault the belief because of its origin. A clear entailment is that if any arguments commit this fallacy, there must be a meaningful distinction between the causal origins of a belief and the grounds of that belief. But it is at just this point that Lewis attacks naturalism. To argue that a worldview cannot accommodate the reasons/causes distinction is not to commit the genetic fallacy but to contend that within that worldview the accusation of making that fallacy would cease to have meaning. Lewis is not only not committing the fallacy, he is arguing against a view which (if his argument is correct) entails that there is no such fallacy to commit. Alan Gerwith puts the point in strikingly Lewisian terms.
    [The naturalist] thesis is unable to account for the difference between the relation of physical or psychological cause and effect and the relation of logical or evidential ground and consequent. (1978: 36)
    Bulverism also connects with several other aspects of Lewis’ work. In The Personal Heresy (Lewis and Tillyard 1939), Lewis argues against E.M.W. Tillyard’s view that poetry, and literature more generally, is first and foremost the “expression of the poet’s personality”, that “All Poetry is about the poet’s state of mind” and that, therefore, “the end we are supposed to pursue in reading … is a certain contact with the poet’s soul” (quoted in Schultz and West Jr. 1998: 318). According to Lewis, to read a poem as it should be read “I must look where he [the author] looks and not turn around to face him; I must make of him not a spectacle but a pair of spectacles” (quoted in Duriez 2000: 162).
    I look with his eyes, not at him. He, for the moment, will be precisely what I do not see; for you can see any eyes rather than the pair you see with, and if you want to examine your own glasses you must take them off your own nose. The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says ‘look at that’ and points; the more I follow the pointing of his finger the less I can possibly see of him. (Quoted in Hooper 1997: 599)
    If we are to treat a person’s opinions fairly we cannot treat them as facts to be explained merely as episodes in their biography, we must consider the belief in question on its own merits. This in turn means thinking about the content of the belief and not about the belief itself. In a similar manner, to read a poem ‘fairly’ we cannot treat it merely as an expression of the poet’s personality, we must attempt to see what the poet sees and not merely to see the poet.
     Lewis’ assault on Bulverism is noted by Como (1998: 170), by Hooper (1997: 552) and by Burson and Walls (1998: 160-1) as among Lewis’ most important ideas, and its relevance to Lewis’ rejection of the Freudian critique of religious belief is obvious. As demonstrated in Chapter 5, that attempt to discredit religious belief is no more (and is perhaps less) convincing than the attempt to discredit atheistic belief in the same manner.

    Steve and Pat: This is a little bit related to the internalism/externalism issue that was explored between my blog and John DePoe's. Something I have to keep emphasizing is that science depends crucially on some beliefs being *rationally inferred*. This entails a claim about how the belief was produced. If I say some people form beliefs because they perceive a logical relationship between the premises and the conclusion. That requires a nonaccidental confluence between cause and effect relations and ground-consequent relations which is prima facie very tough to square with the mechanism and causal closure of the physical. The AFR says that if physicalism is true, then this never occurs.

    Contrast this with a case of Bulverizing. I offer a rational reason for believing in God, say, the AFR. You reply that I can't possibly believe in God because of the argument, I must believe because of wish-fulfillment. Then there are two problems. One arises if I claim that I came to believe in God as a result of reasoning. If I'm making that claim, then we have to ask what kind of evidence could show that this wasn't true. A brain scan maybe? Prolonged observation of my behavior? Even if I have a wish to believe, this doesn't show that the wish, and not the reasoning, caused the belief.

    But what if I don't say that I myself came to believe in God because of the AFR. I don't make that kind of autobiographical claim myself, even though I have been inviting people for years to be able to make that autobiographical claim. For me, of course, it's one of a number of reasons I believe in God. Even if I am a theist because of wish-fulfilment and the AFR is an attempt on my part to rationalize my beliefs, nevertheless the argument is "out there" and has to be considered on its argumentative merits. Of course, this all presupposes that we live in a world in which at least some people at some times make rational inferences, and change their beliefs on that basis.

    One can criticize Bulverism without committing oneself to Anscombe's implausible thesis that how a belief is formed is irrelevant to how the belief is justified.

    I provide a link to Lovell's dissertation here:

    Wednesday, April 17, 2013

    Why Bulverism is a fallacy

    Saying that Bulverism is a fallacy is simply to say that you can't refute someone's position by pointing out an ulterior motive they might have for believing in it.

    Here's the way the whole thing works. Once an argument is given, the focus goes away from the person to the argument they use. 

    If someone gives an argument for the claim that smoking really doesn't cause cancer, then it isn't a refutation of their argument to point out that the person is paid by the cigarette companies. They might, for all that, have a good argument. Now if they are saying "I'm an expert, trust me, smoking really doesn't cause cancer," then the fact that they are paid by the cigarette companies is a problem. But if you can evaluate the argument, you should do that, as opposed to just considering the source.

    If you don't like Lewis's term Bulverism, (since it comes from a Christian) just substitute ad hominem circumstantial. 

    Bulverism: A Truly Democratic Game

    I find the fruits of his discovery almost everywhere. Thus I see my religion dismissed on the grounds that “the comfortable parson had every reason for assuring the nineteenth century worker that poverty would be rewarded in another world.” Well, no doubt he had. On the assumption that Christianity is an error, I can see clearly enough that some people would still have a motive for inculcating it. I see it so easily that I can, of course, play the game the other way round, by saying that “the modern man has every reason for trying to convince himself that there are no eternal sanctions behind the morality he is rejecting.” For Bulverism is a truly democratic game in the sense that all can play it all day long, and that it give no unfair advantage to the small and offensive minority who reason. But of course it gets us not one inch nearer to deciding whether, as a matter of fact, the Christian religion is true or false. That question remains to be discussed on quite different grounds – a matter of philosophical and historical argument. However it were decided, the improper motives of some people, both for believing it and for disbelieving it, would remain just as they are.

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    Monday, April 15, 2013

    Are believers a bunch of sheeple?

    It is an interesting stereotype amongst religious skeptics that they think people who believe believe like sheep, without thinking or questioning. In general, I have not found this to be the case in my experience. 

    On a common rebuttal to the First Way

    From Martin, here.

    Sunday, April 14, 2013

    Some basics on the Cosmological Argument


    Can people learn to avoid simple mistakes in assessing cosmological arguments?

    Friday, April 12, 2013

    Atheism's cyanide pill

    We have seen the argument that atheism must be true, because it's the wave of the future? But is it? Apparently atheists don't reproduce at the rate of religious believers, so the future belongs to...well, not the atheists.

    Why do people avoid philosophical discussions?

    Someone asked that question on a philosophy forum, here.

    Imagine there's no Darwin

    What would the world have been like without Darwin? Peter Bowler wrote a book on this, but Michael Flannery of Evolution News and Views begs to differ.

    Thursday, April 04, 2013

    Christian crimes, and the crimes of atheists

    Papalinton brings up the actions of Christians in Africa who harm children accused of being witches.

    Why is this any different from bringing up the crimes of communists, and the persecution of religious believers in Communist countries.

    You can't have it both ways. If these horrible actions by Christians counts against Christianity, then the crimes of atheistic communists counts against atheism.

    These things were done by Christian theists, but not by Christianity. In the case of Christianity, we have Matthew 18:6, which says

    "If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

    That's what Christ says about harming children, so Christians who harm children have to violate the teachings of its founder to do such things. I'm not even saying that the people who did these things are not real Christians. What I am saying is that they are violating the teachings of Jesus. You cannot even say that the actions of Stalin, Mao, et al, violate the fundamental teachins of atheism. Atheism does not require such actions, but it does not proscribe them either.

    Tuesday, April 02, 2013

    Is the mental on the ground floor?

    BI asked: How does supernaturalism solve the problem of consciousness?
    To respond to this, I am transferring in some material I posted on Dangerous Idea 2, which eventually became part of my essay in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Here's the general idea: when we call something material, or even natural, we are presuming that, at the basic level of analysis, mental characteristics are not present. If, on the other hand, the basic building blocks of the universe are not restricted to the non-mental, then the mental is already present at the basic level of analysis. With naturalistic views, as I am understanding them, we start with a supervenience base that is mental-free, and then we have to account for the existence of mind. With "supernaturalistic" views (and I don't really like the term here, but OK, though Lewis had no problem with it), you start with the mental on the ground floor, so it is far less difficult to see how the mental could arise. It is not to be completely explained in terms of the non-mental. 

    There are four features of the mental which someone who denies the ultimacy of mind maintain must not be found on the rock bottom level of the universe. The first mark of the mental is purpose. If there is purpose in the world, it betokens the existence of a mind that has that purpose. So for anyone who denies the ultimacy of the mind, an explanation in terms of purposes requires a further non-purposive explanation to account for the purpose explanation. The second mark of the mental is intentionality or about-ness. Genuinely non-mental states are not about anything at all. The third mark of the mental is normativity. If there is normativity, there has to be a mind for which something is normative. A normative explanation must be explained further in terms of the non-normative. Finally, the fourth mark of the mental is subjectivity. If there is a perspective from which something is viewed, that means, once again, that a mind is present. A genuinely non-mental account of a state of affairs will leave out of account anything that indicates what it is like to be in that state.
    If the mind is not ultimate, then any explanation that is given in terms of any of these four marks must be given a further explanation in which these marks are washed out of the equation.
    IV. Minimal Materialism
    There seem to be three minimal characteristics of a world-view which affirms that the mind is not ultimate. First, the “basic level” must be mechanistic, and by that I mean that it is free of purpose, free of intentionality, free of normativity, and free of subjectivity. It is not implied here that a naturalistic world must be deterministic. However, whatever is not deterministic in such a world is brute chance and nothing more.
    Second, “basic level” must be causally closed. Nothing that exists independently from the physical world can cause anything to occur in the physical world. Second, the level of basic physics must be causally closed. That is, if a physical event has a cause at time t, then it has a physical cause at time t. Even that cause is not a determining cause; there cannot be something non-physical that plays a role in producing a physical event. If you knew everything about the physical level (the laws and the facts) before an event occurred, you could add nothing to your ability to predict where the particles will be in the future by knowing anything about anything outside of basic physics.
    Third, whatever is not physical, at least if it is in space and time, must supervene on the physical. Given the physical, everything else is a necessary consequence. In short, what the world is at bottom is a mindless system of events at the level of fundamental particles, and everything else that exists must exist in virtue of what is going on at that basic level. This understanding of a broadly materialist world-view is not a tendentiously defined form of reductionism; it is what most people who would regard themselves as being in the broadly materialist camp would agree with, a sort of “minimal materialism.” Not only that, but I maintain that any world-view that could reasonably be called “naturalistic” is going to have these features, and the difficulties that I will be advancing against a “broadly materialist” world-view thus defined will be a difficulty that will exist for any kind of naturalism that I can think of.

    Monday, April 01, 2013

    Did the Apostles Die as Martyrs?

    This video, from Stand to Reason, suggests that we have good reason to believe that, though it is an argument from silence. 

    My view is that regardless of how they actually died, when you say something like this, from Acts 4: 9-10, 

    If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed,then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.

    you are telling the people who had the power to get someone executed, namely Jesus, that you are sufficiently convinced of what you are saying that you are willing to die for it. This does, it seems to be, support the claim that the Apostles strongly believed in the Resurrection, and would undercut conspiracy theories. A skeptic needs a theory that explains, and does not deny, this sincere belief. 

    Ayn Rand's Jack-Hammering

    Ayn Rand was no fan of C. S. Lewis. See here. 

    HT:  Bob Prokop

    The Problem of Pain-for naturalists.

    Steven Carr wrote: I really don't think Victor understands the argument from evil.

    Evil and suffering occur pretty much randomly.

    There is no god organising the world, just as there is no god organising quantum events.

    VR: No, I think I do understand it. The claim is that if theism is true, then we should expect the world to be one in which pleasure and pain are distributed strongly in favor of pleasure, while pain or suffering will occur, if it occurs at all, only when it is necessary to some greater good. 

    On the other hand, if naturalistic atheism is true, then we should expect to find pleasure and pain distributed evenly and randomly. Since that is what we do in fact find, the pain and suffering in the world gives us a reason to believe that naturalistic atheism is preferable to theism. 

    But, here's my problem. I wouldn't expect there to be any pain and suffering given naturalism. Pain behavior maybe, but not real pain and suffering. Unless someone has a solution to the hard problem of consciousness, pain may be a problem for theists, but it's a devastating problem for naturalism. Why is the theist's problem of pain worse than the naturalists?